February 24, 2024

British IVF clinic makes worst mistake possible, says industry watchdog

Inadequate screening of donated sperm leads to miscarriage

A serious error in a British fertility clinic’s screening processes has led to concerns about the safety of IVF procedures. The London Women’s Clinic (LWC) was found this week to have produced a large quantity of embryos using unscreened sperm. The sperm had a serious chromosomal abnormality which could be passed on to any of the unborn children, the Independent newspaper found. The mistake led to a miscarriage for at least one of the couples to whom these embryos were donated. Twenty-two other embryos resulting from the sperm were destroyed.

The incident could spark more investigation into the practices of British IVF clinics and the industry’s current regulatory system. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the UK’s fertility industry watchdog, has stated that it will name and shame similar errors in future. The LWC’s mistake has been described as the worst possible for a fertility clinic.  

Current HFEA figures reveal that there have been 182 “incidents” in British fertility clinics in 2008, eight of them “serious”. But lawyers are sceptical of these figures and say that the actual numbers could be far higher. A number of affected couples are initiating legal proceedings. 

The LWC was pulled up earlier this year in an HFEA inspection, after the required number of “witnessing stages” crucial to correct screening procedures, was not carried out. However, the clinic was found still producing embryos using unscreened sperm in June, according to some prospective parents.

The couple later demanded compensation from the LWC. “It made us so aware that IVF is a business and it all comes down to money,” the couple told the Independent. They were eventually remunerated; the LWC sent them abroad for fertility treatment; and they are now expecting a child. ~Independent (UK), Nov 1

Jared Yee